Saido Berahino has been named in Burundi’s 28-man provisional squad for this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations.
The 25-year-old striker, whose future at Stoke City hangs in the balance, is a hero in poverty-stricken Burundi, who he has helped qualify for a major tournament for the first ever time.
He will head out for a training camp on Monday.
The competition will be held in Egypt next month – and Berahino will be up against Peter Etebo’s Nigeria as well as Guinea and Madagascar in Group B. Their first game will be against Nigeria on June 22.
Coach Olivier Niyungeko has highlighted the importance of Berahino and Gael Bigirimana, who plays for Hibernian.
He said: “We have many players turning out in African countries and in Asia but the two had a very big influence in the team. When they came in they gave a lot of motivation to the other players, showing them that anything is possible and football can indeed change someone’s life.
“They influenced the players in a positive way and it made my work easier as a coach.
“They want their teammates to follow in their paths and told them that qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations would put their careers in a good place.”
Burundi are 200/1 massive outsiders to win the tournament, with Ramadan Sobhi’s Egypt the 4/1 favourites, followed by Badou Ndiaye’s Senegal (7/1). Nigeria are 10/1. Benik Afobe’s DR Congo are 16/1 while Ghana, Morocco and Ivory Coast are also among those who are well backed.
Niyungeko said: “It is a very tough group because apart from Madagascar; Nigeria and Guinea are teams who have experience playing in this competition. We will do our best, take to represent Burundi in the best way we can,
“My target is to ensure we do our best.”
Berahino left Burundi at the age of 10 to flee a civil war which had claimed the life of his father. He represented England at youth level but received clearance from Fifa to go back and play for the place of his birth last year.
The former West Bromwich Albion striker was suspended without pay by Stoke after being charged with drink-driving in February. Earlier this week he was banned from the roads for 30 months and fined £75,000.
He told Highbury Corner Magistrate’s Court that he had driven for less than 30 seconds because he feared an armed gang, who had stolen his watch, two diamond chains and a bracelet minutes earlier, would return to attack him and his group, including his girlfriend and niece.
He had broken club rules which forbid players from going on nights out in the 48 hours before a game. He had been due to play for the under-23s later that day against Manchester United.
Source link : https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/saido-berahino-burundi-afcon-squad-2881578
Publish date : 2019-05-17 17:08:00